Published on Nov 25, 2015 by Edgar Snyder

Four Big Reasons Why Thanksgiving Week Is One of the Most Dangerous Times of Year for Drivers

thanksgiving driving dangers

Thanksgiving-Eve, Black Friday, and Other Reasons Why Thanksgiving Creates Risky Driving Situations

Thanksgiving comes just one day a year, but for many Americans, this celebration is more like a five-day holiday weekend. Everyone can get on board with an extra-long holiday weekend; however, a host of factors unique to Thanksgiving combine to make this time of year an especially turbulent time for drivers.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) warns Americans to be especially careful if they are traveling by car this Thanksgiving, because no other holiday leads to more deadly car accidents each year. Annually, the increased number of car accidents on and around Thanksgiving causes a very distinct spike in the overall U.S. mortality rate during this time.

We've identified four major reasons why Thanksgiving leads to such notable driving dangers. They are very important to keep in mind as millions prepare to travel on our nation's highways, or simply drive around their hometowns, over the long holiday weekend.

4. Pre- and Post-Thanksgiving Long-Distance Travel

thanksgiving driving dangers

According to AAA, driving remains, by far, the most popular method of traveling home for Thanksgiving. The organization predicts that nearly 47 million Americans will drive 50 miles or more from the Wednesday preceding Thanksgiving until the Sunday following the holiday.

The increased traffic on the roads coupled with the monotony of long-distance drives means drivers should take extra caution on any road trips they have planned. Ultimately, one of the most important rules of a road trip is to make sure that all passengers and the driver are wearing their seat belts properly—this includes no shoulder-belt-behind-the-back action.

Consult our long-distance travel guide, 6 Dangerous Things You Might Do on Your Road Trips, for more common road trip pitfalls.

3. Black Friday

thanksgiving driving dangers

Most people associate the day after Thanksgiving with overly-crowded malls, but if you've ever attempted to find a parking space at one of those malls on Black Friday, you may be familiar with the overly-crowded traffic conditions that also accompany this retail holiday.

Progressive Insurance Company maintains that Black Friday is one of the worst days of the year for parking-related car accidents. On the day after Thanksgiving, claims from parking-related accidents increase by anywhere from 20 to 40 percent when compared with other Fridays.

The best thing for drivers to do is to decrease their speed significantly in parking lots, and use other passengers in the car as extra lookouts for nearby pedestrians.

2. Thanksgiving-Eve

thanksgiving driving dangers

Thanksgiving-Eve, which some refer to as "Black Wednesday," has quickly become the busiest night of the year for bars. Young adults typically flock to hometown bars on this night to catch up with old friends. This, plus the fact that many others do not have work the next day, leads to a far greater incidence of drunk driving than any other night of the year.

As a result, the risk of being involved in an alcohol-related car accident from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. the night/early morning before Thanksgiving has consistently been extremely high. More drunk driving deaths occurred on Thanksgiving Eve than on New Year's Eve in at least four of the past five years.

Anyone going out on Wednesday night should make sure to designate a sober driver ahead of time. If you will be a designated driver at any time during the holiday weekend, sign our Safe Driving Pledge for your chance to win a $100 Visa gift card as a way for us to say thank you to all the designated drivers out there!

Thanksgiving Day

thanksgiving driving dangers

While Thanksgiving Day is a time to celebrate with family and friends, sadly, this holiday also bears the title of Deadliest Single Day for Drivers. On a typical day in the U.S., 102 people die in traffic accidents. On a typical Thanksgiving Day, anywhere from 500-600 Americans lose their lives in car accidents.

The combined factors of roughly 50% more drivers on the road and higher-than-usual alcohol consumption contribute to its danger. Thanksgiving hosts can make a big difference in preventing guests from drunk driving. If you're hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year, learn about the responsibilities and duties of what the law determines to be a "Social Host."

Keep the above points and safety tips in mind as you celebrate over the next few days. We wish you and your loved ones a safe, happy, and healthy Thanksgiving.

Sources: “US death rate spikes on thanksgiving.” Forbes.com. November 25, 2015.
“Traffic deaths spike sharply after decade in decline.” Cbsnews.com. November 25, 2015.
“Black Friday drivers, beware: Parking lot accidents increase today.” November 25, 2015.
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